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Hurricane Katrina

FEMA Restructuring

Project: Hurricane Katrina
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FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh appears before Congress to discuss his agency’s goals and priorities for fiscal year 2002. A chief priority is to reduce the federal government’s role in disaster mitigation and prevention, which, he asserts is “inherently grassroots.” He explains: “These activities involve local decision-making about zoning, building codes, and strategy planning to meet a community’s unique needs. It is not the role of the federal government to tell a community what it needs to do to protect its citizens and infrastructure.… At the same time we are giving more control to state and local governments through the Managing State concept of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and other initiatives, we are asking that they take a more appropriate degree of fiscal responsibility to protect themselves. The original intent of federal disaster assistance is to supplement state and local response efforts. Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management. Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level. We must restore the predominant role of state and local response to most disasters. Federal assistance needs to supplement, not supplant, state and local efforts.… FEMA is looking at ways to develop meaningful and objective criteria for disaster declarations that can be applied consistently. These criteria will not preclude the president’s discretion but will help states better understand when they can reasonably turn to the federal government for assistance and when it would be more appropriate for the state to handle the disaster itself.” Allbaugh also discusses how FEMA will bring Bush’s compassionate conservatism to disaster survivors. “President Bush’s compassionate conservatism is a hallmark of his core philosophy,” Allbaugh states. “The president is promoting faith-based organizations as a way to achieve compassionate conservatism. Not only does FEMA work with… faith-based organizations…, but FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program is the original faith-based initiative and is a perfect fit with President Bush’s new approach to helping the poor, homeless and disadvantaged. Through this program, FEMA works with organizations that are based in the communities where people need help the most.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/16/2001; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Federal Emergency Management Agency, George W. Bush, Joseph M. Allbaugh

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal: FEMA, Mitigation, Disaster Mitigation, Before Katrina

In a memo to FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh, the agency’s inspector general relays concerns over the Bush administration’s proposal to merge FEMA, along with several other agencies, into the newly-constituted new Department of Homeland Security. “There are concerns of FEMA losing its identity as an agency that is quick to respond to all hazards and disasters,” the inspector general writes. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Joseph M. Allbaugh, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, FEMA Restructuring, Organization Capacity, Before Katrina

The Brookings Institution publishes a report warning that merging FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security will harm the agency’s capability to respond to natural disasters. “While a merged FEMA might become highly adept at preparing for and responding to terrorism, it would likely become less effective in performing its current mission in case of natural disasters as time, effort and attention are inevitably diverted to other tasks within the larger organization.” [Daalder et al., 7/2002 pdf file; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brookings Institution

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Warnings, Organization Capacity, NGOs, Before Katrina

FEMA is merged into the Emergency and Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security. Michael D. Brown, the agency’s new head (see March 1, 2003), assures skeptics that the revamped agency will be “FEMA on steroids.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] FEMA’s Cabinet status disappears as it becomes one of 22 government agencies to be consolidated into DHS. According to the Washington Post,“For a time… even its name was slated to vanish and become simply the directorate of emergency preparedness and response until then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge relented.” [Washington Post, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

After FEMA is incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security (see March 1, 2003), veteran FEMA employees complain of a massive “brain drain.” FEMA “has gone downhill within the department, drained of resources and leadership,” I.M. “Mac” Destler, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, will tell the Washington Post shortly after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster. At least one veteran FEMA staff member, Pleasant Mann, complains on the record about the changes FEMA is undergoing (see Mid-September 2004). [Washington Post, 9/9/2005] Local officials complain that FEMA’s new focus on terrorism threatens other necessary prevention programs. “With the creation of Homeland Security, [natural disaster prevention programs] have taken a backseat,” says Walter Maestri, emergency management director in Jefferson Parish. “To us, it is pretty obvious which is the greater threat. One is maybe, the other is when.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/8/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, US Department of Homeland Security

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Organization Capacity, Resource Allocation, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: SELA, Before Katrina, Academia/Professional

When FEMA is incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (see After March 1, 2003), FEMA loses control of more than $800 million in federal grant money to the Office of Domestic Preparedness, another part of DHS. Included in that sum are funds designated for emergency management preparedness grants, which fund states’ emergency management offices. After the merger, these preparedness grants are no longer given directly to the country’s state emergency management directors. Instead, they are given to state homeland security offices [Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2005] where they are generally designated for use in counterterrorism. [US Congress, 9/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Emergency Management Association

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Disaster Mitigation, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: State, Before Katrina

An article in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management notes: “[Joseph M.] Allbaugh brought about several internal, though questionably effective, reorganizations of FEMA. The Bush-Allbaugh FEMA diminished the Clinton administration’s organizational emphasis on disaster mitigation.” [Sylves and Cumming, 2004; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Joseph M. Allbaugh, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Mitigation, FEMA Restructuring, Academia/Professional, Before Katrina

A survey of 84 FEMA personnel conducted by the American Federation of Government Employees finds that 80 percent of surveyed employees believe that since FEMA’s merger into the Department of Homeland Security, the agency has become “poorer.” Sixty percent say that given the opportunity, they would transfer to another agency if the salary were the same. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004; Washington Post, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: American Federation of Government Employees, US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal: FEMA, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

Former FEMA director James Lee Witt tells Congress: “I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded. I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared. In fact one state emergency manager told me, ‘It is like a stake has been driven into the heart of emergency management.’” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004; Reuters, 9/2/2005]

Entity Tags: James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Warnings, FEMA Restructuring, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Before Katrina

Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran who heads the agency’s government employee union, writes a letter to Congress describing how FEMA has changed under the Bush administration. “Over the past three-and-one-half years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent, employee morale has fallen, and our nation’s emergency management capability is being eroded,” he writes. “Our professional staff [members] are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Pleasant Mann, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Organization Capacity, Political Patronage, Before Katrina

A FEMA document lists 222 upcoming FEMA and homeland security exercises designed to prepare federal response personnel for national emergencies. Only two involve hurricanes. “And even in both of those cases, they’re dealing with what would happen if there were a terrorist attack associated with a hurricane event,” reports NBC News analyst William Arkin. [MSNBC, 9/2/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Resource Allocation, FEMA Restructuring, Disaster Preparedness, Before Katrina

Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran, says in an interview with the Independent Weekly that changes made to the agency by the Bush administration have so severely harmed FEMA staff morale that people are leaving “in droves.” Part of the problem, he says, has to do with the people Bush selected to run the agency. “The biggest frustration here is that we at FEMA have responded to disasters like Oklahoma City and 9/11, and here are people who haven’t responded to a kitchen fire telling us how to deal with terrorism. You know, there were a lot of people who fell down on the job on 9/11, but it wasn’t us… . Since last year, so many people have left who had developed most of our basic programs. A lot of the institutional knowledge is gone. Everyone who was able to retire has left, and then a lot of people have moved to other agencies.” Mann also complains that FEMA’s “priority is no longer on prevention.” FEMA’s merger into the Department of Homeland Security has made mitigation “the orphaned stepchild,” he says. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security, Pleasant Mann

Category Tags: Federal: FEMA, FEMA Restructuring, Policies, Before Katrina

Funding is cut for a FEMA disaster exercise meant to prepare government agencies for a major hurricane in New Orleans. The exercise, a follow-up to the Hurricane “Pam” exercise that was conducted the prior year (see July 19-23, 2004), was to develop a plan to fix such unresolved problems as evacuating sick and injured people from the Superdome and housing tens of thousands of displaced residents. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005] “Money was not available to do the follow-up,” Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will later say in an interview with the Associated Press. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005] After the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, Eric Tolbert, FEMA’s former disaster response chief, will tell Knight Ridder Newspapers: “A lot of good was done, but it just wasn’t finished. I don’t know if it would have saved more lives. It would have made the response faster. You might say it would have saved lives.” [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Eric Tolbert, Michael D. Brown

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Resource Allocation, Disaster Preparedness, Evacuation, Evacuation Problem, Before Katrina

Judge Michael Chertoff is confirmed by the Senate in a 98-0 vote and sworn in as the second Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, succeeding the agency’s previous head, Tom Ridge. Chertoff previously served as the United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit Court of Appeal, and prior to that he was the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice. During the 2000 elections, he helped fundraise for George W. Bush and other Republicans during the 2000 election cycle and advised Bush’s presidential campaign on criminal justice issues. Before joining the Bush administration, Chertoff was a partner in the law firm of Latham & Watkins, and from 1994 to 1996 he served as Special Counsel for the US Senate Whitewater Committee. [Department of Homeland Security, 9/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, US Congress

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Political Patronage, Federal, Before Katrina

Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security, unveils a massive restructuring plan for the agency. One of the changes envisioned by the plan, dubbed the “second-stage review,” would be to transfer the function of preparedness planning from FEMA to “a strengthened department preparedness directorate.” [Washington Post, 7/13/2005] Chertoff further explains that he plans “to take out of FEMA a couple of elements that were really not related to its core missions, that were generally focused on the issue of preparedness in a way that I think was frankly more of a distraction to FEMA than an enhancement to FEMA.” The Wall Street Journal notes this“would cement FEMA’s reduced role” and “[strip] away longstanding functions such as helping communities build houses outside flood zones.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA Restructuring, Before Katrina

In a letter to Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), the leaders of a key Senate committee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), a group of state emergency directors, denounces a proposal (see July 13, 2005) to transfer preparedness functions from FEMA to a new preparedness directorate elsewhere in DHS. The NEMA letter argues that the move would disconnect disaster planning staff, grants, and programs from the state, local, and federal agencies that are supposed to respond. “It would have an extremely negative impact on the people of this nation.… Any unnecessary separation of these functions will result in a disjointed response and adversely impact the effectiveness of departmental operations.” David Liebersbach, president of NEMA and director of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says he believes that the motive behind the proposal relates to terrorism prevention efforts, which are very different than the types of efforts required to mitigate and manage natural disasters. “Losing [the] natural hazards emphasis for FEMA is getting to be quite a concern,” he says. “Prior to FEMA, the very programs that became FEMA were fragmented and were very difficult for states to interface with. Now you start taking pieces out.” [Ledger (Lakeland, FL), 8/21/2005; Wall Street Journal, 9/6/2005; Reuters, 9/17/2005] Now there is a “total lack of focus on natural-hazards preparedness,” he says. “[The emphasis on terrorism] indicates that FEMA’s long-standing mission of preparedness for all types of disasters has been forgotten at DHS.” [Reuters, 9/17/2005]

Entity Tags: National Emergency Management Association, David Liebersbach

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Disaster Preparedness, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Organization Capacity, Before Katrina

Ordering 

Time period


Categories

Period

Before Katrina (140)Pre-Impact Katrina (192)During Katrina (76)Immediate Katrina Aftermath (19)After Katrina (3)

Organization

Federal (138)Federal: FEMA (64)Louisiana: State (72)Louisiana: NOLA (46)Louisiana: SELA (42)Mississippi: State (4)Mississippi: Biloxi (0)Mississippi: Gulfport (0)Mississippi: Other Local (0)Alabama: State (0)Florida: State (0)States: Other States (0)Private Sector (19)Academia/Professional (9)Media (27)NGOs (17)General Public (9)

Knowledge

Flood Risk (28)Evacuation Problem (22)Public Safety Risk (3)Environmental Risk (5)Organization Capacity (10)Levee Breach/Flooding (58)Sheltering (1)Response Level (1)Advisories (81)Increased Chance of Hurricane (1)

Disaster Management Legislation Relevant to Katrina

Legislation (3)

Emergency Preparedness/Response Plans

Evacuation (13)Shelter (4)Response (7)Recovery (1)

Policies that Affected Intensity of Katrina Impact

Environmental Policies/Programs (16)Land Development (3)Flood Control Programs (23)Disaster Mitigation (12)Disaster Preparedness (11)Resource Allocation (29)FEMA Restructuring (16)Outsourcing (5)Political Patronage (9)Canvassing (0)

Progress and Impact Hurricane Katrina

Florida (3)Louisiana: State (2)Louisiana: NOLA (20)Louisiana: SELA (18)Mississippi: Local (0)Mississippi: State (0)Mississippi: Biloxi (0)Mississippi: Gulfport (0)Mississippi: Other Local (0)Alabama: State (0)

Execution of Emergency Plans

Evacuation (22)Sheltering (2)Emergency Response (120)Other States' Assistance (0)

Response in Wake of Katrina Disaster

Response to Evacuation Execution (0)Response to Emergency Response (1)Investigations (0)

Recovery from Katrina

Infrastructure (bridges; roads) (0)Governmental Services (water, electricity, etc) (0)Industry (oil industry, etc.) (0)citizenship (0)

Statements

Policies (5)Warnings (15)Plans (0)Mitigation (4)Katrina (6)Execution of Emergency Plans (25)Response (0)Recovery (0)

Specific Cases and Issues

Coastal Wetlands (27)

Other

Other (4)
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